Some words on the netra tantraM

tryambakaṃ yajāmahe sugandhiṃ puṣṭi vardhanam
urvārukam iva bandhanān mṛtyor mukṣīya māmṛtāt

The netra tantra commented upon by the famous kShema-rAja, student of abhinava-gupta, is of some what later origin amongst the shaiva tantras. It is not listed as a primary text in any of the five srotas of the tantric shaiva mArga in support of this contention. However, it was definitely considered cannonical by the start of the syncretic trika period. While it has affinities with the garuDa tantras, there is evidence to believe that the netra tantra tradition was a parallel stream outside the five cannonical srotas that probably branched from an ancestor close to the garuDa srotas but evolved on its own in the midst of the kaTha yajurvedin brAhmaNas of northern and north-western India. The main evidence for the connection to the garuDa srotas is from its emphasis on the mR^ityunjaya mantra which is also expounded in the former tantras. In support of this we note that kShemarAja uses quotes from the garuDa srotas to explain several points in the netra tantraM, and the mantra of tryaMbaka rudra as amR^iteshvara, which is the central theme of the tantra. The worship of mR^ityunjaya or amR^iteshvara has a very precise iconography that is described in the dhyAna shloka given in the 3rd paTala (chapter) of the netra tantra. R brought to my attention a couple of idols of tryaMbaka or amR^iteshvara and his wife, one from what is now Himachal Pradesh (close to R’s native village) and one from what is now Afghanistan (where apparently kaTha yajurvedins were once present). These exactly match the dhyAna sholkas supporting the importance of this stream as an independent one in N/NW India. Further, the kaTha brAhmaNa tAntrika-s use the important double prayoga, the aghora prayoga and the tryaMbaka prayoga with the mantras of svachChanda bhairava and amR^iteshvara. Importantly, the kaTha-s before reciting their shatarudriya recite the dhyAna sholkas of tryaMbaka and aghora– somewhat akin to the insertion the taittirIya yajurvedin-s make after the first rudrAnuvAka in shaiva recitation.

amR^iteshvara of the netra tantra stream is depicted with 4 arms, white in color, with 3 eyes and wearing a helmet/crown. He is seated on an indivAra lotus, in the middle of which is a moon disc. In his right inner arm he holds a soma pot, and in his left inner arm a moon disc. The right outer arm shows the abhaya mudra and the left arm embraces amR^itashrI who is seated on his left thigh. She also has 4 arms and in her right and left inner arms carries a chakra and a sha~Nkha, while her outer arms show abhaya and varada mudras. The main day for his worship is the aShTami of the autumnal navaratri, where his entire maNDala along with the AvaraNa pUja is done.

The inner most AvarNa has the upAsana of the four AmnAya emanations of shiva and his wife: 1) sadAshiva associated with the siddhAntAmnAya 2) vAmadeva associated with the vAmAmnAya 3) aghora or dakShiNA~Nga rudra associated with dakShiNAmnAya. 4) akula-vIra associated with the kulAmnAya.
Then the next circle outwards has the worship of: 1) viShNu and mahAlakShmI 2) shiva and umA 3) brahmA and sarasavatI. 4) Then the mArtANda bhairava emanation of amR^iteshvara is invoked as amR^itasUrya with 8 hands holding the weapons of the eight devas (see below). 5) Then bauddha mantras are inserted by some traditions here.
In the next circle are worshipped: 1) kumAra kArtikeya 2) manmatha 3) soma oShadhipati 4) vinAyaka.
In the outer most circle the 10 deities are worshipped with their weapons: 1) indra+vajra 2) agni+shakti 3) yama+daNDa 4) nirR^iti+khaDga 5) varuNa+pAsha 6) vAyu+a~NkuSha 7) soma+gada 8)IshAna+trishUla 9) viShNu+chakra 10) prajApati+padma

For those of the second varNa, amR^iteshvarI or amR^italakshmI worshiped in the sword before going to do battle against one’s shatru’s. The followers of the atharvan tradition invoke her as pratya~NgirA in the sword rite for kShatriyas. The netra-tantric shaivas also have the rite of indra-rupa amR^iteshvara which is performed in the bhAdrapada where amR^iteshvara is identified with indra and worshiped in the indra pole prior to the end of the most important Hindu festival indramaha.

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